Commentary

A Statement of Civic Alarm

Note: The following text, with a few modifications, was issued by some organizations based in Cebu City.

We, the undersigned leaders of each listed civil society organization in Cebu City, in our own capacity and as leaders of each organization, hereby issue this Statement of Civic Alarm concerning the sudden suspension of Cebu City quarantine passes in particular, and the seemingly militaristic approach to containing the COVID-19 problem in Cebu City in general.

We believe that the sudden suspension of Cebu City quarantine passes are impractical and would not have any significant effect on flattening the COVID-19 curve. The cancellation of the passes and reissuing new ones are just a waste of time and financial resources which could be fruitfully applied elsewhere. We believe that the resources of the city government would be better spent on the enhancement of medical facilities and of the health care system to fight the pandemic.

We also believe that the sudden suspension of the passes without consulting the stakeholders, it appearing including the elected and appointed officials of Cebu City, is anti-people, anti-democratic and contrary to the ideals of the 1987 Constitution.

Furthermore, we express our grave concern for the disrespect of local autonomy, the national government preempting the local elective officials of Cebu City, who are the ones provided with a mandate to rule by the voters of Cebu City. While indeed, the President of the Republic of the Philippines exercises, by himself or through his alter egos, control and supervision over local government units, these control and supervision must always be with proper regard to the will of the voting public. We believe that without the Cebu City government declaring itself or being declared unable to contain the pandemic, the exercise of the police powers of the city by the national government is an intrusion into local autonomy, and not an exercise of proper control and supervision.

Finally, we would like to manifest to the public our sincere belief that an evidence-based, expert-guided and scientific approach to containing the pandemic is the only Constitutional and legal way to go. The virus being a public health issue, it should be treated as such, and not as a public law enforcement issue, employing a militaristic solution. Dili ang mga armas, bala ug paglisod-lisod sa katawhan ang makabuntog ning maong bayrus. Ang bugtong mapildi sa maong mga lihok mao lamang ang katungod ug kagawasan sa mga lungsoranon, ang mga Sugboanon kinsa kaliwat ni Lapu-Lapu, ang unang natala nga mipatay sa madaugdaogon.

We call upon the national government to lay out a plan to return control over the situation in Cebu City to the city government as soon as possible, and the city government to take responsibility for the lives of Cebuanos, or to formally declare itself incompetent to exercise its mandate and let the national government continue addressing the pandemic in Cebu City, in all cases making sure that the rights of the people are respected and the most vulnerable sectors are protected and aided.

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